NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Social media is undoubtedly shaking up the digital landscape, but it looks to be shaking up the corporate suite as well.
As brands try to foster loyalty with Facebook pages, show innovation on blogs and address customer concerns on Twitter, social media is threading its way through the marketing and sales, research and development, customer-service departments and more. All of which gives rise to the question: Just whose job is it anyway?
Answer: everyone's -- so it's important to get all those disciplines working together.
Take Ford Motor Co. for example. The automaker saw $2.7 billion in profit for 2009 -- a huge turnaround from a record loss the prior year -- and it smartly used social media to help disassociate it from the bankruptcies and bailouts of its rivals. But that required breaking with custom at Ford and pooling the resources of marketing and corporate communications.
"We've been living this for the past year," said Scott Kelly, Ford's digital-marketing manager. "Historically, we had very little interaction with public affairs, but ever since the congressional bailout for the other two automakers, we needed to combine marketing and public-affairs forces to get the right message out around Ford so we didn't get dragged down by GM and Chrysler."
Gettin in early
In late 2008, Ford brought together the teams from what was then called public affairs (now corporate communications) and marketing to plan all efforts simultaneously. That means Ford's Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Director Scott Monty is now involved in marketing's launch-planning meetings. "In the past, public affairs were brought in at the end," said Alex Hultgren, Ford's digital-media manager. Now, Mr. Kelly said, "I talk to people in public affairs daily, where it used to be monthly."
Ford's social-media efforts include FordStory.com, which went from a political advocacy site when the automaker appeared before Congress in 2008 to a social-media hub today. The automaker also launched the Fiesta Movement last spring, in which Ford lent out 100 cars, along with gas and insurance, to YouTube bloggers for free. The Fiesta videos attracted 3.5 million views and won 38% awareness among 16- to 24-year-olds last fall. As of today, Ford reports that the campaign has computed to 6,000 reserved cars -- months before Fiesta goes on sale this summer.
Sometimes it's also about dragging non-marketing types into social-media meetings. "Our client contact has stayed the same, but now new people are in the room, like from R&D or merchandising," said Ketchum's Jonathan Bellinger, VP-social-media strategy. "Whether or not they've been volunteered, we've been asking for those people because it's not necessarily the marketing people that audiences are most interested in."
Southwest Airlines, for example, has tapped some flight-crew members to blog for Nuts for Southwest, which aggregates photos and videos. The blog also addresses news stories, such as the one that erupted recently when film director Kevin Smith tweeted that the airline kicked him off a plane because he was too fat. The blog is primarily a brand and PR tool, but customer service is also brought in and given a social-media bullhorn.
"If your goal is customer care, you need people inside [the company] that can take action and do something about it," said Sarah Hofstetter, senior VP-emerging media and client strategy for 360i.
Best Buy has made this model famous with Twelpforce, its customer service handle on Twitter. The retailer's employees sign up to field customer tweets and respond to service questions or requests for recommendations. Any employee can sign up, but all are subject to company-wide protocol and guidelines. Best Buy did not respond to multiple calls and e-mails for comment.
That's not to say marketers can navigate social media without agencies. Digital and PR agencies are vying for ever-increasing social-media budgets.
"In 2010, we start to see funded conversations," said 360i's Ms. Hofstetter. "Instead of funding a particular campaign, they are funding an investment in an ongoing conversation with consumers. That's a big shift." And that change isn't expected to slow anytime soon. Forrester Research forecasts social-media budgets will on average grow 34% yearly from 2009 to 2014 -- faster than other kinds of digital advertising.
Ford's Mr. Kelly doesn't see social media as something for PR and digital shops to fight over, since both types of agencies bring different skills to the table. "We consider it one budget," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a marketing or public-affairs budget."
Ford has been less susceptible to the tug of war between digital and PR agencies for social media because its agency, Team Detroit, houses multiple shops under one roof. The WPP collective, dedicated entirely to the automaker, houses agencies spanning media, PR and creative. For Ford, creative and digital are responsible for building content for social-media channels (like apps for Facebook), while PR keeps up social page day-to-day management of things like posting events and responding to customers.
Ford has also looked to small social-media boutiques like New York-based Undercurrent for programs such as those for Fiesta. Social-only shops are the newest breed in the agency landscape and are proliferating rapidly. In January, Austin-based Powered acquired Joseph Jaffe's agency Crayon for strategy; events agency Drillteam; and Facebook-focused StepChange to create a full-service social-media agency with a national footprint.
"We're always going to start with our agency of record," said Ford's Mr. Hultgren. "We may look at a boutique agency to manage a piece of social media. Boutique agencies can be singularly focused on something. But if we want a pure focus on some social-media task, we want a boutique to focus on a pilot. Once we've proven out that model, we'll hand off to Team Detroit to integrate."
But while it's clear that social media has helped change perception of Ford, the biggest test is whether it sells cars. "Social media can fall anywhere in the range of the selling cycle," said Mr. Monty. "In our case it's on the broader end: awareness and perception. It's more of a branding tool than a sales tool. But on the local level, where the dealer gets involved, that's where it get can work for lead generation and CRM."
Three marketing models for social media
A look at how Ford, Kodak and Best Buy run their programs
CENTRALIZEDThe social-media department functions at a senior level, reporting to the CMO or CEO, and is responsible for all social-media activation for the brand. "We work with a lot of clients that have appointed one person," said Ketchum's Jonathan Bellinger, VP-social media strategy. "It's nice to have a celebrity; it puts a human face on a company. You can achieve that by having one person being the public face both externally and internally, but it can get distracting because it becomes about those people."
Dangers: Having a social-media head means departments outside that person's scope might not benefit from efforts in the medium. For example, is customer care being considered if social media is centralized under marketing? This model doesn't necessarily take into consideration social media's influence on the entire business.
Essential roles: The social-media lead.
Marketers with this model: Ford. Scott Monty, global digital and multimedia communications director, joined the automaker from social boutique Crayon and has been a visible proponent of social media for the brand. Mr. Monty operates within the corporate-communications department, which reports directly into Ford's CEO.
DISTRIBUTEDIn this setup, no one person technically owns social media. Instead, all employees from customer care, marketing, media and beyond are represent the brand and work social media into their roles. This is often implemented through training and encouraging social media use across an organization.
Dangers: If there's no standardized practice, social media can veer a brand off-message. For example, Jet Blue Senior VP-Marketing Marty St. George brought Twitter into the agency-of-record pitch process -- tweeting the news of the search to see how many agencies were digitally savvy enough to find it there. "That experiment is over -- and not to be repeated!" he tweeted after his tweet blew up into media coverage. Without a leader, learning about new social technology or sites then also falls on individuals.
Essential roles: Senior leadership that champions social media; training and internal communications around social-media policy is necessary.
Marketers with this model: Best Buy is decentralized because everyone in the organization has a role in social media, as Twelpforce demonstrates. Any employee can sign up to respond to customer queries on Twitter. The retailer does, however, have protocol and guidelines in place for tweets, and it has social-media experts in marketing. Last summer, CMO Barry Judge crowd-sourced a job description for a senior manager-emerging media marketing. Brands like IBM, Intel and Kodak have published social-media policies.
COMBINATIONThis involves centralized best practices and decentralized execution. A brand maintains a committee of social-media stakeholders to work up its position and voice, which it disseminates to the company at large. From there, each discipline is left to incorporate social media into its individual executions.
Dangers: How do you hold departments accountable to a research council? Also, when a social-media program goes sour, who ends up as the fall guy, those who built the social-media strategy, or those who implemented it?
Essential roles: A team of social-media experts plucked from various departments.
Marketers with this model: Ketchum's Mr. Bellinger cites his client Kodak as a company that's found a good balance. It employs Jenny Cisney, chief blogger, in marketing, but she's tasked with steering the company's social-media presence rather than own it entirely. Kodak has published online its social-media policy for employees within a guidebook for marketers looking for lessons in social media. Starting in 2005, IBM used a wiki to crowd-source guidelines for a company blog and has asked employees to collective revise the rules for new forms of social media. Those efforts ultimately feed back to IBM's social-media head Adam Christensen, who most recently spearheaded the company's Smarter Planet blog.